A bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal (1993)
Cristal is the brand name of a champagne produced by Louis Roederer. Cristal has a flat-bottomed clear, "crystal" bottle, anti-UV cellophane wrapper, and gold label. Widespread awareness of its high price has given the wine an image of exclusivity that, in turn, has elevated demand: it is considered a Veblen good. The most recently released vintages are the 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, and 2000.
Cristal was first created in 1876 for Alexander II of Russia, and is viewed by many as the first prestige cuvée. As the political situation in Russia at the time of his rule was unstable, the Tsar feared assassination. He ordered that champagne bottles for his Three Emperors Dinner be made clear, so that he could see the bubbles and also to prevent hiding a bomb within them, as could happen with a typical dark green bottle. Louis Roederer commissioned a Flemish glassmaker to create a clear lead glass Champagne bottle with a flat bottom. The Champagne has since become known as "Cristal".
The wine was not commercially available until 1945. In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, the brand became increasingly associated with hip hop music and culture, with several artists referencing the drink in song lyrics and as part of their public image, including Raekwon, 50 Cent, A$AP Rocky, The Notorious B.I.G., Sean Combs, Big L, Hollywood Undead, $UICIDEBOY$, Yung Lean, Jay-Z and Mac Miller. The nickname "Crissy" is sometimes used for the drink. Tupac Shakur created a cocktail called "Thug Passion", which is a blend of Alizé Gold Passion and Cristal. In an interview with The Economist in 2006, Louis Roederer managing director Frederic Rouzaud said he viewed the attention from rappers with "curiosity and serenity." Asked if he thought the association would harm the brand, he replied, "that's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business." Subsequent interpretations and reactions to these statements resulted in the brand's loss of position in hip-hop culture. Cristal went from being the rappers' default to being discarded, an example of this was Jay-Z releasing a statement saying he would never "drink Cristal or promote it in any way or serve it at any of [his] clubs" for what he felt was off-hand, patronizing disrespect for the culture of hip hop.
The 1974 vintage was the first release of a rosé Cristal. The grape composition is an approximately equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot noir, while the rosé contains more Pinot noir, and is colored with red wine rather than Pinot noir grape skins, the saignée method. The 2000 vintage is 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay, with a dosage of 10 g/l. The annual production of Cristal is 300,000 to 400,000 bottles.
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